F1 notes and quotes: Bahrain Day 4

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The final day of the first of two four-day tests for Formula One at the Bahrain International Circuit is in the books. Here’s a quick round-up of more notes and quotes from the teams:

  • Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, pace-setter on Saturday and overall, said the team doesn’t know yet where it stacks up in performance. But he did express a true comfort with the car, and said he was very happy with the team’s race simulations. More from Nico and Lewis Hamilton in the team’s post-test official Q&A.
  • McLaren’s running for the week totaled more than 1,600 km (296 laps), largely trouble-free. The team confirmed that for next week’s second round of testing in Bahrain, it will shift its car specifications to match what it will run at the Melbourne season opener.
  • Despite his incident, it was a good day of running for Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Of the spin, the Finn told Ferrari’s official website, “Hitting the barrier? I spun on the kerb at the exit of Turn 4, these things can happen! Luckily, it was right at the end of the day, I’m only sorry because it means the team now has more work to do.”
  • More happiness at Williams. Chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson on Felipe Nasr’s first day in the car: “He did a very good job. He gives good feedback, works well with his engineers and is quick.” Nasr himself? “It was a learning process for me, but I’m looking forward next time.”
  • Continuing the positivity theme, we head to Lotus and Pastor Maldonado, after completing 59 laps. “There was a lot of work with different settings, aero runs and similar which meant there was quite a lot to think about, but I think it all went well. The car was much more reliable which has helped with our work and hopefully it’s a good sign for next week,” said the Venezuelan.
  • The only Mercedes-powered car with issues on Saturday was Force India’s, with a drivetrain issue limiting Sergio Perez to just 19 laps. “With the amount of work involved in resolving the problem and the lack of time available, we decided it was better to regroup and put our efforts into achieving our objectives next week,” said team COO Otmar Szafnauer.
  • Pick your issue for Red Bull, it seems. Today was a further software problem, another mechanical issue, and some worse damage than anticipated after an installation lap made it a rough day at the office, per the team. “In all honesty it wasn’t a great day today,” said the usually optimistic Daniel Ricciardo.
  • What was deemed “a far from satisfactory day” with “several teething issues” was a nice way for Scuderia Toro Rosso to sugar coat its day. Even Jean-Eric Vergne’s lead in to his official post-day comments were allowed to be not flattering, and that says something. “There’s no point in making negative comments, because everyone knows we are facing major problems and we are not alone in that. We knew when we came to Bahrain that there had not been enough time since the previous test to have solved all our issues.”
  • Caterham only got four laps in before an electrical issue halted Marcus Ericsson’s day, although Kamui Kobayashi got back out in the afternoon. But the team was still the Renault-powered team that completed the most laps – 253 in all – during the week. “It’s obviously disappointing that we had limited running today due to an electrical issue with the power unit but we worked hard throughout the day to rectify that problem with Renault and add more mileage for the last hour, so it wasn’t a wasted day by any means,” said team deputy technical director Jody Egginton via the team’s website.
  • Today was a rare off day for Sauber after three good days prior to that. Team head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara said there had been an internal issue with the monocoque, which required a change in chassis. Adrian Sutil was limited in his first action since Wednesday.
  • Poor Marussia didn’t sort its issues out, with Jules Bianchi’s second day in the car netting only five laps with none realistically timed. The team said there was “a continuation of component reliability issues” that carried over from earlier i the week. At week’s end, only 29 laps completed, and more questions than answers.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”